January 1, 2009

Marley & Me (1/1/09)

Lettergrade: B

The "me" half of Marley & Me is played by Owen Wilson. The ads kinda downplay that, hinting instead that the other half of the title refers to the ever-stunning Jennifer Aniston. It doesn't, but it's a very good movie nevertheless.

This flick was made by David Frankel, who also directed The Devil Wears Prada in 2007. Like that movie, this was one that I wasn't especially excited to see, although once I was in the theater, I was surprised by the maturity and thoughtfulness of the filmmaking. He doesn't exactly light the screen aflame with his camera set-ups or his staging (which tend to show his TV roots, I think), but he's really good at getting the characters to feel real and making the story connect, two traits which are arguably much more important anyway.

Minor complaints are that the movie feels a little episodic at times, especially when Marley is running amok and causing havoc at special occasions, but it's not as cloying or as painful as a single frame from any Beethoven movie you can name, by comparison.

A word of caution, however: This is a family dog movie, and in the history of family dog literature, TV specials, and cinematic endeavors, the dog always winds up in the exact same condition by the end of the flick. As "dead dog movies" go, this one is especially drawn out and painful: practically the Green Mile of family pet flicks. It's shameless, yes, but I challenge even the most stone-hearted of critics to hold back the tears by the end.

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